Thoughts on Ayn Rand?

Yesterday, we got an email to table@waitbutwhy.com from a man named Andrew F. of Toronto. It said:

“Ayn Rand.”

That was his Dinner Table topic suggestion. I get it.

Ayn Rand is mentioned in this week’s post as part of a list of people who carved new pathways by being unique, independent thinkers—and already, before the post has even been sent to email subscribers, a bunch of commenters are pissed off. Let’s discuss why this woman is so polarizing. So many people love her and so many despise her. Thoughts?

Tim’s Answer: I’ve personally only read The Fountainhead, so I have limited knowledge. But I absolutely loved the book. Sure, the characters are extreme and one-dimensional—but to me, that was the point. To use extreme characters to represent different qualities within all of us. My interpretation was that there’s a Roark and Keating in all of us and that the goal should be to have Roark be the one in control. Roark was a weirdo and not a very likable character, but again, I wasn’t seeing him as a human at all—just an element of human nature. To me, The Fountainhead was a fictional way to talk about cooks and chefs and why it’s so important to let your own software guide you in life.

I’ve heard that Atlas Shrugged is significantly more of a “dogma being shoved down your throat” book (my dad physically threw the book in the trash two-thirds of the way through), so maybe that’s why I’m missing what’s so offensive about Rand. But again, even in that case, I’ve heard people from a range of political leanings say Atlas Shrugged is their favorite book.

So why do people who love her love her and why are the people who hate her so worked up?

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